Brazil's Leandro Vissotto Neves, left, tries to spike the ball past… (Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP/Getty…)
LONDON — The ball, thrown by Brazilian setter Sergio Santos, sailed high and long, finally settling softly into the crowd of jubilant fans sitting in his country's colors and flags near the team's bench.
Brazil had merely won the first set Thursday night at Earls Court.
And the U.S. men's volleyball team took note — sort of.
PHOTOS: London Olympics — Day 6
"We let them do what they do, and we do what we do," setter Donald Suxho said.
Added Reid Priddy: "I love playing Brazil. They're extremely passionate. But as much as possible, we try to not react."
Except, perhaps, with stellar play. In a rematch of the gold-medal match at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the U.S. men stormed back to defeat world No. 1 Brazil in four sets. No longer can the defending Olympic champions fly under the radar here.
"We're extremely comfortable in that position," Priddy said. "I don't think anybody has us picked. Because of our experience, we know this tournament is a two-week grind. And it's the team that can endure a long stretch of volleyball. And we're showing maturity in that sense."
The U.S. remained unbeaten after three matches in pool play with the impressive 23-25, 27-25, 25-19, 25-17 victory, which was secured by one of Priddy's 14 spikes. Clayton Stanley, another veteran from 2008, led the U.S. with 16.
Coach Alan Knipe used his bench for the first time, getting small contributions from David McKienzie, Paul Lotman and Sean Rooney.
"When you win nine out of 10 sets [in three matches], you're probably not going to make many changes," Knipe said. "But we used some strategy and those guys gave us a spark."
Still, the fourth set is where the incumbents shined most brightly. Stanley powered home two spikes and had one of his three aces bounce fortuitously off the net during a seven-point run that turned the final set. Priddy's diving save led to a Matthew Anderson spike from the back row down the stretch.
The U.S. next faces Russia, tied with Brazil at 2-1 in pool play, on Saturday afternoon. But unless the Americans are sneaking a peek at an opponent's premature celebration, the focus remains on themselves.
"We've had an up-and-down quad and under-performed at times," Priddy said. "But we're maturing and jelling and getting better. And that's exciting. This tournament, being as special as it is, brings out our best."
In other matches in the U.S. team's group, Germany beat Serbia, 3-2, and Russia beat Tunisia, 3-0. In the other group, Bulgaria beat Australia, 3-0; Poland beat Argentina, 3-0, and Italy beat Britain, 3-0.